Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm since Hippocrates by David Wootton

By David Wootton

All of us face affliction and loss of life, and depend upon the scientific career to increase our lives. but, David Wootton argues, from the 5th century BC till the Thirties, medical professionals really did extra damage than sturdy. during this debatable new account of the background of drugs, he asks simply how a lot reliable it has performed us through the years, and what kind of damage it keeps to do at the present time.

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Extra info for Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm since Hippocrates

Sample text

The idea that progress in knowledge and progress in therapy are quite distinct may seem an obvious point, but it took me a long while to grasp it. When I started working on this book, my intention was to write a history of different ways of conceiving of the human body–– in terms of the four humours (ancient and medieval medicine); as a mechanical system in which the heart functions as a bellows (the medicine of the scientific revolution); as a system of chemical interactions (nineteenth-century medicine); as a system for the replication of genes (twentieth-century medicine), and so forth.

But it was also believed that all four humours were to be found, in varying proportions, in the blood, and that they separated out when blood was left to stand. It was thus easy for bloodletting to come to be regarded as the sovereign remedy, far more important than emetics and purgatives. ’ Dyspepsia resulted from eating the wrong foods; plethora from consuming more food than one burnt up or excreted. Why, in the case of one patient, did a severe wound heal without becoming infected, while in the case of another a tiny scratch became infected, red, swollen, and potentially fatal?

One could treat the voluntary and involuntary systems as two aspects of the human body, as Galen did, or one could see them as reflecting a fundamental distinction between the physical and the mental, between body and soul, between the passions and reason. If one went down this alternative route, dissection, which had started as a study of function, could now be said to have confirmed a fundamental claim of Socratic philosophy: that the mind was separate from the body, that mental functions and bodily functions were different in nature.

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